Joey Essex is what would happen if David Beckham was capable of parthenogenesis: a super distilled version, who probably finds himself walking into a lot of lampposts. Even Joey himself would agree that there are one or two gaps in his general knowledge but he’s certainly clever enough to be self-aware, which is more than can be said of someone like Piers Morgan. So, with this in mind, those kind hearted souls at ITV2 have selflessly taken it upon themselves to open Joey’s mind to the world beyond Chigwell, in Educating Joey Essex.
The basic idea of the programme is to identify a celebrity with a deficiency in a certain area and then highlight it by placing them in a situation where that deficiency will become very apparent. This got me thinking about what other possibilities they may have tried before settling for Joey:
‘Funnying Ainsley Harriet’ – essentially putting Ainsley Harriet in front of any camera, anywhere.
‘Thinning Eric Pickles’ – Eric is only allowed to eat the out of date bags of lettuce that Kate Moss throws away.
‘Exorcising Tony Blair’- Richard Dawkins attempts to compel the devil to leave Tony’s body through the power of Christ.
‘Shaving Noel Edmunds’ – The hirsute TV presenter is shaved entirely hairless by Chris Tarrant – in a bath.
Back to the programme in hand and Joey found himself flung off to Soweto, where he kept getting names wrong and did a bit of silly dancing – you can tell it’s hilarious can’t you? The really odd thing about it all though was the decision to get Phillip Schofield to do the voice over. Now, if you’re going to make a patronising, slightly snarky I’m-so-much-cleverer-than-you-ha-ha-ha documentary (and that is exactly what it was) then Phillip Schofield is not the person to do it.
If this is the programme you want to make, then do it right. Get a young Charlie Brooker, lock him in a cage for two weeks and force him to watch one episode of Animal Hospital on a loop. Then poke him in the kidneys with a frozen sausage and set him loose in the sound booth. The programme will certainly be more entertaining and could potentially lead to the eventual break down of civilisation – and a national TV award.
Joey then found himself in Uganda looking at some silver-back gorillas and the similarities with David Attenborough were startling. They both expressed the same bewildered awe at the profundity of seeing the oneness of nature reflected in the stare of these elusive cousins. The gorillas in the mist bringing a new clarity to life. And then one of them started licking a stream of snot running down his face and the existential epiphany (and Attenborough) was gone, and Schofield came drawling back.
The problem with this programme is not Joey Essex – who seems like a genuinely nice man – but with the entire thinking behind it. What exactly are they trying to do? They are either sneering at someone who they regard as stupid – which is rather unpleasant – or they are glorifying in someone else’s ignorance. Either way the concept is rotten.
I know, why don’t we make a show about Phillip Schofield taking a PhD course at MIT and have Aaron Sorkin provide a patronising commentary? See how Phillip feels when he watches himself floundering over a differential equation and Aaron’s erudite voice sniggers at the pathetic capacity of his puny mind. Phillip and ITV should beware of laughing too hard because there is always someone cleverer than you.